Georgia Tech Neuro Seminar Series

"In vitro Modeling of Human Cortical Assembly in Health and Disease"

Fikri Birey, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Emory University

*Lunch provided for in-person attendees

*To participate virtually, CLICK HERE

Assembly of inhibitory and excitatory neurons into networks represents a critical period in the development of the cerebral cortex during which early principles of circuit formation and function are established. This elaborate process, which involves GABAerrgic interneurons migrating long distances to integrate with glutamatergic neurons, is, when perturbed, often associated with various neuropsychiatric disorders. However, the lack of access to functional tissue precludes mechanistic insights into how early cortical circuits are wired in humans and miswired in disease. I will describe my work towards developing “forebrain assembloids”, a modular, hiPSC-based brain organoid platform that allows for the previously inaccessible aspects of human cortical assembly, such as human cortical migration and network integration, to be studied in vitro. Using hiPSCs derived from patients with a monogenic form of autism, I will demonstrate how the forebrain assembloid system can be used to uncover novel disease phenotypes at the cellular, molecular and network levels and point to novel therapeutic avenues.

Fikri was born in Nicosia, Cyprus. As a Fulbright Scholar, he received his BS in Biology with Honors from University of Kansas in 2008 and his Ph.D. in Genetics from Stony Brook University in 2014 on neuroglial interactions in stress-related disorders. He completed his postdoctoral training at Stanford University in 2021 in the laboratory of Sergiu Pasca, where he developed the forebrain assembloid platform and applied it to understand how neurodevelopmental disorders emerge during human cortical development. Fikri started his own group in the Department of Human Genetics at Emory University early this year, where he combines stem cell-based models with a variety of cellular and molecular tools to better understand the guiding principles of how the human brain is assembled in health and disease.